After years of preaching the Gospel, Pastors Kerry and Chris Shook, founders of Woodlands Church outside of Houston, became weary of sermons and words. They felt a gap between what they were saying and meeting the needs of people around them.
So they chose to talk about God less and walk with God more, the couple told The Christian Post recently while discussing their new book, Be the Message – Taking Your Life Beyond Words to a Life of Action.
Be the Message is their story of "waking up to the gospel — not just a gospel of words and sermons, but the gospel of intention and action and people — and how doing so changed their family, church and personal relationship with God," publishers state. "It's their story of taking one step after another to live out God's gospel in the world. And it's their call for us to do the same."
The Shooks write, "Something shifts inside you when your faith is acted out." In pursuing this new life they found that "you are the gospel." The verse "the word of God lives in you" is really a life message and it's different for everyone.
"Our goal is that by the end of the book you will be able to clearly see the life message of Jesus and you'll also have a much clearer view of what your own life message is, the way that God wants to walk and speak and reach others through you so that you can not only read the message but be the message."
The Shooks' edited interview with The Christian Post is below.
CP: What prompted you to write Be the Message?
Kerry Shook: Chris and I had really always believed and encouraged our congregation to live the sermons. We feel like it is important to hear Bible teaching, but until you live it out it doesn't make any difference. We've always believed that, but yet, over the last few years, we've both felt a real unsettling in our soul that I was just talking so much about God in sermon after sermon and Bible study after Bible study that there was a disconnect. We start the book by saying, "I'm sick of sermons."
I feel so privileged to have the call on my life to preach because there is so much value in preaching God's Word, but we were talking so much about God we weren't experiencing Him as much as we wanted to and needed to and so we say that I want to talk less about God and walk with Him more. I want to hear less about God and experience Him more. I think we've started substituting all the talk for the experience and we are really getting back to just that relationship with Jesus, spending time with Him, letting Him work in our hearts, and then shine through us.
'BE THE MESSAGE' BY KERRY AND CHRIS SHOOK - VIDEO BELOW
Again, I preach every week and preaching is important, it's just that we talk so much about God, hear so much about God, that a lot of times we substitute that for really experiencing Him and really walking with Him.
Chris Shook: We just felt the disconnect between the words we were speaking and the life we were living. We would talk about God a lot, but didn't have that depth and richness in relationship, and I felt like personally we could be doing a lot more. It's easy to get involved in church and delegate the ministry without feeling like you need to engage personally and love the one in front of you all the time. We just need to get back to the main thing and that's just love the one in front of you, whoever that is, if it's someone in your family, your neighbor, somebody you work with. Words are not enough. Words are great, but the message is a lot more than words and it takes us being active and intentionally engaging with the people in front of us.
CP: Why have people become tired of simply going to church on Sunday and listening to sermons?
Chris: People are tired of just hearing sermons. They want to see a sermon lived out in front of them. When you share your testimony with someone you can't argue with that. No one can argue with what God has done. In the same way, when we are being the message, when we are living out the sermon with our lives it really makes a difference, people around us take notice. Kerry and I thought the goal should be that if we didn't use words would somebody around me still know that I'm a believer just from my actions, just from the way I love on them?
The little things we do can really make a difference. It's easy to get caught up in "we need to go out and change the world," but God never called us to change the world, He just said love the one in front of you, and He'll change the world.
CP: How do you encourage people to really listen to others and "be Jesus to people?"
Kerry: At the end of every chapter in the book, we put a little section called the "Divine Whisper" and it's all about spending time with God, suggestions and encouragements to really seek to hear God's voice and spend time with Him. And then we have the "Love the One in Front of You" part where there's suggestions on how to love the person in front of you, to put it into action. We really feel like the world needs to see sermons and so that's the big thing we are encouraging people to do is live the sermon. It's really changed the church.
CP: What do you hope readers will come away with from the book?
Chris: We hope they come away with the idea that they can do more than nothing. Our response so often when we see somebody hurting on the street or someone we come in contact with is that we think, or at least I would think, "I really don't know how to get involved, I don't know what they need right now, I don't know what to say," then I would say nothing or do nothing. And that would hold true for our community and world as well – "That's such a big problem. That's so political or there's so much red tape in that… I could never make a difference" and therefore do nothing. We've learned that each of us can do more than nothing.
What we challenge ourselves to do, what we challenge leaders to do is look for ways that you can do more than nothing. The smallest things sometimes, just a kind word, can make a huge difference in somebody's life, it can change their whole perspective. When someone's hurting, instead of not saying anything or being afraid of saying the wrong thing, just be willing to step into that and saying, "Hey, just to let you know that I'm praying for you," or look for some way to lighten their load a little bit in some practical way.
Kerry: We are really encouraging congregations around the country to live the sermon. With the Be the Message church-wide challenge we're really signing churches up, people all over the country to help people really live the sermon in their communities to really make a difference. On Sunday, November 16, we are having a national Be the Message Sunday. There will be hundreds of churches around the country who will cut their worship services in half and send their people out to make a difference on that Sunday. We are giving a lot of different ideas and things that people can do. Here at Woodlands Church I'm cutting the worship service in half and I'm sending the people out to areas all over the church where we are packaging rice and beans in this food packaging ministry that we have and we are sending those meals to our ministry in Haiti to show Christ's love. We will pack 100,000 meals just by cutting our worship services in half that Sunday.
It's so important to hear sermons, worship the Lord and focus on Him, but it's just as important to live that sermon out.
On the Web: http://bethemessage.org/